Saturday, November 17, 2018

Thankful for cleaning

Although my parents always told me when my grandparents were planning to come visit us, I knew their arrival was real close when my mom became a Cleaning Maniac.

Our house was always exceptionally clean; I learned the definition of irony by finally understanding the humor behind the sign in our kitchen that read “Bless This Mess.” But somehow my mom perceived our home as a pig sty when a visit by her parents – especially her mom – was imminent.

At about T minus one week, Mom was cleaning things I didn’t know got dirty. The tops of bookcases that nobody was tall enough to see, the grate thingy at the bottom of the fridge, the fancy dishes in the hutch that somehow got dirty even though they were locked away and only used a couple of times per year. All got a thorough cleaning when Grandma was on her way.

As a grade-schooler, I was totally baffled by my mom’s turbo tidy behavior. As a teenager, I vowed to never be like her when I grew up. This commitment was endorsed by Mom herself. I remember her telling me through exasperation and sweat and the lingering scent of Endust and Lysol, “Please promise me you will never do this for me when you grow up. I would hate to think of putting you through this.”

"DEAL!"

Fast forward about 15 years. Rob and I are living far enough apart from my parents that a visit now requires a sleep-over. Mom and Dad are planning to arrive in about a week. And suddenly, our normally rather clean home is a disaster.

The blinds need to be dusted. The baseboards need to be cleaned. The linen closet needs to be reorganized. I’m in a panic and moving through our house like the Tasmanian Devil with a sponge and 409.

And then, as I am vacuuming out the silverware drawer…something I had never done before but was horrified to discover had crumbs and specs of other food bits ALL OVER IT…I suddenly realized I had become my mother. Despite my promise to myself and to her, I was mimicking the behavior we had both agreed was unnecessary for a Healthy and Loving Mother Daughter Relationship.

Instead of berating myself, though, I laughed. I laughed at myself, I laughed at my perceived need to clean a drawer full of clean silverware, and I laughed at the seemingly DNA-coded drive to Clean for Mom…regardless who Mom was.

Before even putting the vacuum away, I called my mom.

“Guess what I just found myself cleaning because you guys are coming to visit next week??”

Mom and I almost always laugh when we talk on the phone. That phone call was especially commiseratingly giggly.

I told her I now totally understood why she cleaned so much before Grandma came to visit. She told me it wasn’t at all necessary but she totally appreciated my efforts. And when she arrived a week later and was lingering in my kitchen, she nonchalantly took a peek at the silverware drawer. She oohed and ahhed with just the right blend of love, empathy, and teasing.

This story came flooding back to me recently. Rob and I enjoyed an early Thanksgiving with my parents this year. We still live far enough apart that a sleep-over is required. A little less than a week before our arrival, my mom texted me this picture with the caption “I’m getting ready!”

Also note her t-shirt, a gift we gave to her a number of years ago.
It reads, "Let me get this straight.  My grandchild is a cat?"
SO MANY REASONS I ADORE THIS WOMAN!

This is already perhaps my favorite photo of my mom ever. It encapsulates a story, a history, a shared bond and experience. It oozes love and laughter and anticipation. It is the embodiment of the close, love-and-laugh-filled relationship I am blessed to have with my mom.

So very, very much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Back from an unintentional hiatus

I’m honestly a little afraid to look back to see how long it’s been since I’ve posted something here. A couple months at least.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about. We’ve gone on trips, we’ve gone to concerts, we’ve socialized with llamas, we’ve hung out with teenagers. But the truth is, my busy calendar has been accompanied by waning energy. I’d like to blame being 50, but 50 truly isn’t old enough to use “I’m tired” as an excuse not to write. I mean, I’m currently in a recliner with tea and a cat. How hard is this?

The days when I can lounge in pjs and skip the make-up, I’m quite content to zone out on the internet or make a dent in my DVR recordings (finally all caught up on “Young Sheldon”). Somehow writing seems too taxing. Which is so odd because writing actually brings me energy and joy and happy.

Much like ditching the gym for a couple of months, the longer I’ve gone without posting anything, the harder it has become to get the motivation to jump right in and resume a good habit.

But jumping right in is really the only way to do it. So here I am, jumping right in.

So what have I been doing since August 24 (I had to look. YIKES.)?

Well, in early September Rob and I took that trip to Canada that we tried to take last year but got detoured by life. Instead of training it, we drove. Which while not as pampering and full of delicious scones and regional wines (Rocky Mountaineer train travel is spectacular), the automotive route was still extraordinarily scenic and relaxing.

I finally got to cross “see Banff” off my bucket list, and we got to see the enormity of the Canadian Rockies without the smoke screen we encountered last year. We saw lots of wildlife and had one of the best meals of our lives in Lake Louise (these events are unrelated; however, who knew bison was so tasty?!). It was a fantastic trip. I’m grateful we held true to our promise to my dad last year that we would retake the interrupted trip if he promised to stay out of ICU. Gold stars all around!

We enjoyed this view in Jasper National Park with wine,
donuts, and parkas.

Banff is so walkable!  A week after I took this
photo, this street was dusted with snow.

Glacial lakes are gorgeous.

We drove the Icefields Parkway twice just to try
to grasp how gigantic the Canadian Rockies are.

Power play by a bighorn sheep

Lake Louise before a breeze picked up and created
lots of ripples.

A couple weeks after we got back from Canada, we had a very musical weekend of the decades.

On a Saturday night, I dragged Rob to an Evening of My Adolescence. Boy George and Culture Club were the headliners. The B-52s opened for them, and one-third of the Thompson Twins opened for the B-52s. It was an unsettling evening.

The Thompson Twins was a favorite band in high school. They were actually three people, none biologically related -- a fact my dad found quite amusing.  I saw the Twins a couple times in concert in the heyday of the synthesized ‘80s. They were soooo gooooood!

And now, 35 years later? They…or rather, one he…is soooo baaaaaad!

Although I know their discography quite well, there were several songs I didn’t recognize for an embarrassingly (to him) long time. Tom Bailey’s voice ain’t what it used to be, and the Twins clearly need the full talent of three to be musically enjoyable.

Tom was not alone on stage, though. No, the 62-year-old grandpa was surrounded by a harem of slender women in their 20s who were not actually playing the instruments in front of them. They mostly danced around to songs they had likely never heard before they got hired for the gig and essentially played air guitar and air drums.  In all honesty, it was sort of pathetic.

Tom’s concert was so bad, at one point I was literally moaning and wincing in pain. Rob consoled me by introducing a phrase made famous in the military. Rob encouraged me to “embrace the suck,” to try to find humor and enjoyment in the dismal, sad, ridiculousness of a singer who should have given up touring a long time ago…and his aging fans who should have known better.

I tried my best to laugh off the agony.  However, I insisted on listening to my iPod Thompson Twins collection on our drive home in hopes of erasing the memory of Tom Bailey so painfully butchering the soundtrack of my adolescence.  Doctor, Doctor indeed.

It was like a really cheap MTV video from the '80s plus a
big red dot from Target

Fortunately, Boy George more than made up for Tom's cringe-worthy performance. Although George is five years OLDER than Tom Bailey, Mr. George definitely still has it going on. What a fantastic concert!

I had never seen Culture Club in person when they were first tumbling for us and not really wanting to hurt us and talking about chameleons and karma. My bad! Because if they sound this good in 2018, I really missed out on something spectacular in 1985.

I was sad that George didn’t do much of his iconic hip-swaying, understated, flowy dancing. Mostly because I sort of dance just like him and wanted to see my dance sensei at work. But George still wears a felt hat and long capes and presumably black eyeliner (I forgot to bring binoculars). And aside from a couple of missed high notes here and there, he still sounds just like his 30-year-old self.

Before that night in September, I had never realized that Culture Club is a mash-up of big band, blues, and reggae music. I guess I was too busy dancing and watching the pop videos.

Without those distractions of my youth, I found a whole new appreciation for both the music and the man behind it. I was seriously touched as George expressed true gratitude for still being around after 30-plus years, and still having fans despite a number of destructive, fame-driven detours along the way. His humility made me like him even more. I’m hoping Santa brings me Culture Club's new album. On CD, since I'm nostalgic that way and cassettes aren't vintagely hip yet.

The stage setup was so simple yet classy.  With musicians
who actually played their instruments.

The next night, I dragged Rob to a nearby casino to see an opinionated, somewhat bitter Canadian who was iconically ironic in the ‘90s. Although the venue sort of sucked (a ballroom with banquet chairs – terrible traffic flow and limited visibility), Alanis Morrisette rocked the crystal chandeliers. She still yodeled better than any Ricola commercial, and she got a whole new generation of feminists worked up into a sing-along, #metoo frenzy. I quite enjoyed it. Rob was terrified.

Alanis is that bright blob in the middle.  I watched most of
the concert on the large screens.

A few weeks later, Rob and I trekked back up to Canada for a few hours. What is it with us and Canada?!?

In our continued quest to earn free laundry on the Love Boat someday, we took another one-day repositioning cruise from Seattle to Vancouver, BC. Unlike the last time we tried to beat the system, this one-day-er was not a massive Booze Cruise. It was much more family-friendly and passengers were much better behaved and much less stumbly.

We had a lovely dinner at one of the specialty restaurants, sipped wine, walked around, listened to some music, slept on the not-terribly-high seas, and then rode a bus back to Seattle and drove home.

The whole jaunt, including a fancy dinner, wine, shuttles, parking, and a 4-hour international bus ride cost less than a new smartphone. Pretty reasonable for a weekend get-away on a cruise ship! And one step closer to being able to hand our laundry bag to a room steward and have clean clothes returned to us for free. (If you’ve ever spent time babysitting a washer and dryer in the cramped, steamy laundry room on a cruise ship while other vacationers are vacationing, you appreciate what a dream that is).


Pro tip:  Bring your own bottle of wine!

We got into Cruise Mode surprisingly fast.

Sunrise in Vancouver, BC.
Pro tip:  Book the cheapest interior room available
and gratefully accept the free upgrade to a balcony room

Beyond those out-and-aboutings, we’ve basically enjoyed all things Fall-ish the past two months. I was thrilled to have the rain finally return a couple of weeks ago. As much as I grow weary of having to match freshly laundered socks in the winter, I’m thrilled it also means the end of Leg Shaving Season. Sorry, Rob.

Our annual Seahawks game.  We chose these seats because
I wanted to see what it was like to see the players come out
from the locker room.  It was pretty awesome!  Worth getting
rained on to actually see the faces of my favorite players.

Grateful to our friend Laurie who helped us harvest our
250lbs of Riesling grapes.  Wine making underway in our barn!


The ultimate wedding crashers!  Such a blast
helping Rojo and Napoleon entertain wedding
guests.  I forget sometimes this isn't normal.

So now here we are on November 8.  The clocks are turned back, we've had our first freeze, and the air has that wonderfully sweet smell of decaying leaves.  I'm trying to wrap my head around the need to figure out a Thanksgiving menu and the abrupt arrival of Christmas ads and Starbucks red cups.

But I have finally jumped back into blogging. And my heart is happy.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Scattered Thoughts

The post-Fair recovery continues. In all honesty, it’s been a bit harder this year. By now I should be pretty much back to my version of normal. Instead, I’m still hanging out on my heating pad, scrambling pain signals to my brain with electrode patch thingys, and Netflixing. At least there’s popcorn (unbuttered and air-popped).

I’m also walking. Walking walking walking. One of the many great things about The Fair is that it gets me back into a daily routine of strolling several miles each day. Walking makes my back…and my head…happy. Walking is good.

I’ve been sort of nesting this past week, so I’m getting my steps in the rural hinterlands around Woodhaven. In addition to avoiding a car, this has also afforded me the chance to meet some new neighbors. This is awesome since we will all be retreating to our hibernacles soon.

Returning from today’s 2.7 mile jaunt, my fingers slightly purple from the fresh blackberry snacks along the way, I headed right to the couch. Partly because my back commanded as much, partly because urgent research was required.

It took about 10 minutes of Googling and carefully studying rather graphic images before it dawned on me that my life is so not San Francisco Suburbs anymore. Because I’m here to tell you, never in my life before Woodhaven did I ever study photos of animal poop…especially with such intensity and excitement.

I’m quite familiar with rabbit and deer droppings. They are scattered all around Woodhaven. And I know that coyote poop looks a lot like what might be provided by a dog. But my recent walks have been dotted with some new…curiosities.

Cougars (a mom and her cubs) have been reported in the area for the past several weeks. A neighbor posted a sign suggesting we play some tunes since “cougars are very sensitive to music…” Soooo extraordinarily tempted to play some “Pink Houses” and “Hurts So Good.”

It's honestly not clear to me if we're talking about mountain
lions or middle aged women trying to lure in young hunks

Just a few days ago, Rob and I had to brake on our way down the hill to let a bobcat bebop across the street. And bears are not unheard of in these parts, although I haven’t heard of any in the immediate area this year. So far.

My extensive (~20 minutes) research tonight on critter scat implored me to search for tell-tale signs including tubular ropes, blunt ends, and items that are segmented, and twisted. Poop adjectives, or bands from the ‘80s? Or both?

Either which way, my careful yet appropriately distant inspection suggests we’ve definitely been visited by coyotes. Maybe a cougar. Definitely not a bobcat. And maaaaybeee a Boo-Boo sized bear (the scat is a bit scant; we’ve got quality but not quantity to call it). All of which is rather compelling information.

However, perhaps the most fascinating and thought-provoking finding this evening is the revelation that for only $21.50 (plus tax and shipping and in stock now!), I can purchase my very own life-sized replica of "Adult Black Bear" poop. The gift giving ideas are piling up!!

If only Rob liked blackberries and raspberries. The “Grey Fox with Berries” sample is a bargain at just $11.50.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Giuseppe

Ok, so I talked a lot about The Creepy Monkey Show at the Fair this year.  That wasn't its billed name but, truly, there is no title more apt.  As you will see shortly.

Although I did my best to describe the full oookiness of Giuseppe's "interactions" with the audience...especially those of the female persuasion...there's really nothing like seeing it for yourself.

And so, my dear Fair Fans, I give you....

GIUSEPPE, THE CREEPY MONKEY!!

And keep in mind...this is a kid's show. 




Although the Fair for 2018 is over, the images of Giuseppe will be burned into your skull for eternity.  Tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

After the Final Elephant Ear – 2018 Fair Recap

Has anyone else noticed how particularly strong gravity has been the past few days? I swear I was adhered to Earth more than usual yesterday.

Today is a little better. I got about 9 hours of sleep last night and have reintroduced my body to the wonders of fruit and probiotics. If I follow my typical post-Fair pattern, all systems will be back to normal by the end of the week.


It was a great year
Rob and I were on our Fairwell Ferris Wheel Ride when I thanked him for fairing so well with me this year. He kissed me and shared that it was a particularly good Fair year from his perspective.

He said he never felt rushed or that we were on a schedule. Instead, I seemed much happier just showing up and wandering around, letting inspiration guide us. I paid less attention to the daily FanFair schedule (mostly because I’ve lost faith in its accuracy) and didn’t really seem stuck on a plan.

Maybe that uncharacteristically spontaneous trip to Hawaii in May had a bigger impact than I thought? Can I really be on vacation without a plan??

And yes, we view the Fair as a ten day vacation.

I was about to delete this accidental selfie my camera took
on the Ferris Wheel when I realized it captured a very
candidly happy, relaxed Fairgoer.  Vacations are good.


Why I love it so
A friend asked what it is that I love so much about the Fair; why it has captured my heart so completely. Two other folks leaned in to hear my answer so it occurred to me perhaps it’s a curiosity worth sharing.

Essentially, it boils down to being on a vacation with friends. The Fair is a total escape from reality, where it’s normal to see clowns riding around on penny-farthings and cowboys strolling around on stilts and livestock crossing my path on the way to a show ring.

It’s ten days of life in which my biggest decisions are which normally off-limits treats I want to indulge in. It’s an existence in which I happily welcome lingering, spontaneous conversations when I bump into friends without being distracted by a list of errands I need to keep on schedule.

There is a wholesomeness, an innocence, a revisit to simpler times with the Fair. I love seeing a cross-section of people of varying demographics sharing an experience. I love seeing the universality of adolescence played out in the carnival and livestock barns and show rings. I love watching suburbanites marvel at animals I see in pastures around Woodhaven every day. I love seeing elderly couples sharing pieces of pie and holding hands while looking at quilts.

So much in our world today serves to convince us we live in troubled, complicated times. The peaceful simplicity is still there if you know where to look.


It's not like it snuck up on them
This year was the Fair’s 150th birthday. I expected a lot of celebration and hoopla. I had very high hopes for the Fair People in Charge to put on a big party. Certainly they would make a big deal out of this county fair that is two decades...TWO DECADES...older than the state in which it resides.

And in the perfectly descriptive words of a friend of a friend, it was an Epic Fail.

I spent nine days looking and I found very little evidence of this year being any different than last year. There were mentions of it being the 150th birthday during announcements before shows in the Grandstands, but otherwise, a whole lotta nothing.

Well, I take that back. The Fair Board, whose 23 members are required to attend the Fair everyday, wore specially embroidered shirts commemorating the anniversary. And all the vendors had entry passes marking the occasion. And Very Special People were bestowed commemorative pins (bless you again, Fair Office Lady).

My friend John gave this to me at the end of the last day.
One of the best gifts ever.  Thank you SO
very much, John.  I already treasure it.

But that’s it. The only Fair souvenir available to the public was the plastic cup provided with your milkshake by the Dairy Women. I know quite a few locals who collect those cups every year. In part because they are adorable, but also because it’s the only souvenir of the Fair you can get.

What the heck, Fair People in Charge?

It’s not like you didn’t have any warning that the Fair was having a big birthday this year. Unless you needed more than 149 years? And actually, you did seem to know since you made sure your inner circle got swag.

Have you forgotten whom your non-profit really serves (yes, our Fair is a non-profit organization)? The Fair isn’t just about the hay contract and the soft drink contract and the banners and signage contract. While the Fair can’t happen without that business side of things, it really feels like that’s where the focus has shifted the past few years.

There’s been a slow decline in the variety and quantity of entertainment offered. Food booths are slowly dropping away and not returning. There are fewer vendors selling their wares, leaving obvious empty spaces around the Fairgrounds and in the Big Air Conditioned Building. The past few years – this and last especially – have felt off. The energy has been muted. The vibe has been one of being on auto-pilot, with the experience for the Fairgoer being something of an afterthought.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on (I have a few guesses), but this year was a chance for you to get back on course, Fair People in Charge. This year was a built-in opportunity to make a big splash, bring out the decorations and new ideas, invite your customers to Summer’s Best Party and celebrate with them. And Fair People in Charge, you blew it.

I love this Fair. Please love it as much as I do, Fair People in Charge. Please don’t take it for granted and assume it doesn’t need your attention. Don’t assume it doesn’t need your time, don’t assume it can run on its own, don’t assume that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…because I fear some pieces are starting to get worn and might indeed break if you aren’t careful.

Rant...with love and passion...over.

This decoration was handmade by a beef mom
for the Beef Barn display using a hula hoop and
netting and pipe cleaners.  Beef Mom and daughter
were taking it to the Fair Office on the last day with
hopes that the office might like it.  We stopped them
to ask if we could get a picture with their awesome
decoration. Beef Mom was so touched someone
appreciated her enthusiasm and hard work. 
You rock, Beef Mom!
The Fair People in Charge should hire you.


Making peace with the icky reptiles
As noted on Day 2, I was not a fan of the Big Attraction Exhibit this year. Waaaay too many slithering things without feet. I like feet. Feet signal to others which direction you are heading. Feet are good.

However, we did realize there was one advantage to the World of Gross Reptiles (not exactly the name on the signage). There weren’t quite enough scaly, bumpy creatures to fill the exhibition barn so a corner of it had about six large tables and chairs set up. They were nicely positioned near a door as well as a really large fan. The breeze was quite nice.

The big advantage was that this area was in close proximity to the Food Court. The seating in the Food Court can get rather crowded and the air stifling on a hot day. It wasn’t long before we coined the term "Reptile Dining Room" and found ourselves slithering in there with our yakisoba noodles and mac n cheese.

The big disadvantage was this. As long as I kept my back to the screen all was good. I learned that the hard way on Day 3 when I noshed on street tacos while trying not to watch a pack of hyenas savagely devouring their kill.

La la la la la.  I don't see you, creepy iguana lizard
dragon thing.  If I don't see you, you aren't there.


Carnival Econ 101
Rob and I occasionally meander through the carnival area. It’s a good walk and always provides a revitalizing dose of adolescent energy.

I always enjoy seeing the prizes that come out of the carnival and parade around the Fairgrounds. This year there were LOTS of stuffed donuts being worn as hats. And quite a few stuffed llamas.

Stuffed LLAMAS?? Of course, I needed to check this out.

The Llama Game was a dart-and-balloon exercise. Throw darts of questionable sharpness at a board covered in balloons, pop 6 of them, win a prize.

We did the math. If we were expert dart throwers with perfect aim, a coveted llama would cost $15. Rob’s pretty good, but not that good. Especially with carnival darts.

In the waning hours of Day 3, Rob and I casually sidled up to the bored guy manning the balloon dart board.

“How much to just buy the llama?”

Without much hesitation, Bored Guy replied, “Twenty bucks.”

“Deal.”

We took the llama on tour through the Llama Greenway so he could have a Fair Experience before heading to Woodhaven. He’s currently hanging out with some other llama friends in our breakfast nook, because you know Woodhaven has a few llama friends scattered about.

I named him Giuseppe.

Too bad there weren't any judges to score him.  Giuseppe
did quite well on this obstacle.


Final Stats:

Average number of miles walked per Fair day: 3.6 miles per day. That's pretty awesome for a 50-year-old body with titanium and orthotics and hamstrings pretending to be ACLs. Go, body! And YAY pain meds!

Average time I went to bed after posting blogs: 2:32am with an upward trend over the nine Fairing days. I sure hope David from the Xfinity booth calls me as promised to reveal when Woodhaven might get more than 2.5Mbps of internet speed. The photo uploads are killers!

Favorite Smasher Combo: So hard to choose, but I think the winner is Strawberry Mango.

Best Food Discovery: Once we ditched the ice cream and got a fresh batch, the little donuts from the new donut truck were really good. So good, in fact, we opted to have them instead of an elephant ear as our Fairwell treat.

Biggest First World Problem: They moved our bench. Our Bench. The nice wooden bench in the Big Air Conditioned Building placed in front of the canning display, positioned with a perfect view of the entrance. We love to sit there to take a break in the cool air and watch for friends coming and going. It’s also a favorite spot for our friends, Dave and Linda, so often we either take shifts or all cozy up on the bench together.

Linda and I commiserated on Day 2 about the misplacement of Our Bench this year. Still positioned near the canning, it now had its back to the entrance. Instead of watching for friends, we got to stare at the same five quilts all Fair. Sigh.

It was in the wrong place but we were still grateful to use it.


Changes afoot
Word on the Midway is that changes are a comin’. Three key people in the Fair Office will be retiring very soon, not the least of which is the Fair President/CEO/Manager/ Head Fair Person in Charge. John is 75 years old. His Fair gig of 27 years was his second career. He claims he’s going to retire for good this time.

The person who has been hired to take John’s place is a 44-year-old with event and conference management experience. Mickey’s from Tennessee with a special heart for “…the outdoorsy, communal style of county fairs,” according to an interview in our local paper.

I already like him.

Rob and I have also been in discussions for a slightly different approach to Fairing, at least for next year. We still have some things to work out, so stay tuned. But rest assured, I WILL be Fairing my little clogged heart out again next year…and you are absolutely invited along for the ride.


Almost finished…
Once I reacquaint myself with an app, I will post one more short, Fair-related blog in the next couple of days. I will do my utmost to make it worth the wait.  Key word:  video.

Stay tuned!



Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 FAIR – Day 10

Wow, the last day of my beloved Fair. Already. And yet it also feels like two years ago that I wore jeans on Opening Day. Time absolutely flies when you are having a blast. And drags like a Shave Ice line on a 95 degree day when you are exhausted.

The last day of Fair is always the definition of bittersweet. On the one hand, I am desperately sad to have my escape from reality come to an end. On the other hand, my body is ready to return to a more civilized sleep schedule and wouldn’t mind some fiber and protein.

We didn’t have any plans for day other than staying until closing so I could pick up my canned entries and that white ribbon photograph. Most people will pick up their entries tomorrow, but it is far too heartbreaking for me to see my Fair being completely dismantled. Watching animals and magicians and vendors leave for good today was hard enough.

We saw Adam at PDX once and chatted with him.
We have felt like buds ever since.  He may not
remember our names but he always remembers
our faces.  Love that!



I can quit any time. Really.
In past years, I was all about the tryouts for the Equestrian Fair Court which are held on the last day of the Fair. It was always a long but terribly exciting day of stalking and evaluating and taking notes.

Last year a personal friend I have known for years was the Queen. It was the pinnacle of my Fair Court Stalking Experience since I got to actually peek a bit behind the purple curtain.

At the end of Queen Maddie’s reign last year, I realized that short of being on the Fair Court myself (my hair isn’t long enough and I don’t know how to ride a horse), there would be no better year of Fair Court stalking than my Year with Maddie. And so I retired my zoom lens and decided to let all future Courts fluff their hair in peace.

Nevertheless, today I thought it would be fun to watch the interviews and fashion show, which are typically held in the afternoon (old habits die hard). It took far too much work to find out that portion of the competition had been shifted earlier and we had missed it. Boo.

Although I was disappointed, I was more bewildered that the Fair Court competition is not advertised, is not listed on the daily FanFair schedule, and that even the women in the Information Booth belied their title and had in fact no information about it (“They don’t tell us about that. It’s a big secret for some reason.”)

Rob and I were finally directed to the main administration offices where we were given a copy of the 2019 Fair Court Tryouts program – a copy that had to be made while we waited since they didn’t have any prepared to hand out.

Oddly, the program included the words “Public Welcome” three times, yet the public had no way of knowing it was happening. It was open to the public but seemingly the public wasn’t actually invited.

I honestly just don’t get it. The Fair People In Charge are missing an enormous opportunity to engage their public -- their customers -- in the process that selects the three young women who are charged with representing our beloved Fair throughout the year. The Court is always out and about, making appearances, being in parades. Why keep them at such a distance? Why not let their public get to know them and get invested in them? Why not actually invite us to their party?

Unless the Fair People In Charge are fearful that if the public gets too involved, the Fair Court might end up with some stalkers, benevolent though they may be.

Ooops.



No birds were handled or harmed in the competition
Another thing that could have been much better advertised is a competition called Round Robin. It is held for Large Animals and Small Animals. Today was the Large Animal competition.

To participate in Round Robin, a 4-H kid has to have won either first or second place for showing their animal. For Large Animals, that means llamas, goats, sheep, pigs, dairy cows, and beef cows.

All the top winning kids have just a couple of days to learn from each other how to show all the other animals. Then today, they travel around the fairgrounds to the various animal show rings and compete against each other in showing each animal other than the species they are expert in.

Basically, the idea is if you are a good showman, you can show any animal. The Round Robin’s aim is to ferret out who the absolute best showmen are, period. Sadly, ferrets are not among the animals that are shown at our Fair. Dang it.

Rob and I have often been interested in watching this competition, but it was always a bit chaotic with small groups of kids simultaneously running around from show ring to show ring on a schedule that was anyone’s guess. This year they changed the format and made Round Robin MUCH more user-friendly for spectators.  THANK YOU, Fair People in Charge!!

Since Rob and I knew one of the top scoring showmen for llamas, we were excited to get to the Fairgrounds in time this morning to watch Allara try her hand at showing a pig, a goat, and a lamb (we sadly missed the cow rounds). And yes, I know Allara is technically a show-woman, but I have never heard the term used in 4-H circles so I’m just using their lingo, antiquated though it may be.

The pig competition was hysterical. Pigs are huge and strong and stubborn. They pretty much go wherever they want. They also occasionally get ornery with other pigs in the ring, leading to pig fights. Adults with thick plastic panels (called Pig Boards) stand at the ready in the show ring to separate pigs who start trying to rumble.

Meanwhile, the 4-H kids are handed a long, flimsy stick that looks like an antenna. They are instructed to use it to control the obstinate swine. Someone told them they can do that by tapping the sides of the pig repeatedly. I remain unconvinced.

So imagine a bunch of 4-H kids with long sticks, tromping around the show ring chasing wayward swine, tapping the pigs with antennas with the illusion that somehow the magical sticks will control the 300lb ham-toddler.

We couldn’t really tell how well Allara did, other than she smiled and tapped very well. Her pig also didn’t try to kill anything, so we assume she won that round.

Tap tap tappity tap tap


The goat showmanship competition was much more precise. The 4-Hers had to set their animal’s feet just so and they had to make sure their goat was always between them and the judge. They lead the goats around the ring while the judge gave them instructions to see how well these kids who knew nothing about goats could present them to the judge.

Allara had an adorable pygmy goat who was soooooo tired. The little guy could barely keep his eyes open (totally my spirit animal for the day). Allara kept petting his head to keep him awake, and made sure the lead chain was taught to keep the goat’s head up. In a twisted way, because I am punchy with exhaustion, the entire situation sort of reminded me of the movie “Weekend At Bernie’s.”


Poor little guy is all Faired out

The sheep judge was intense. He purposely gave very complicated instructions to see how well the kids could follow along. Once the 4-Hers had their sheep all lined up, the judge went down the line and purposely irritated each lamb with a slight squeeze on the rump. He watched closely to see how well each kid handled an annoyed animal. An animal they knew nothing about mere days before.

At one point, a lamb that was not in the competition got loose and ran around the show ring, firing up all the showsheep into a frenzy. The kids had to try to keep control of their lambs while the rogue one was being wrangled. The sheep judge was just sneaky enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if that loose lamb was entirely on purpose.

Notice the open mouths on the sheep.
They had a lot to say about being
handled by kids who don't usually
handle sheep.


Finally, all the competitions were over. All six animals, both for older kids (Seniors; ages 14-19) and younger kids (Intermediate; ages 11-13). A total of 25 4-Hers had competed. Four winners were announced – first and second place for both the Seniors and the Intermediates.

And then this happened.

One of those glorious photography moments
of hitting the button at just the right time.
A shoe in for a White Ribbon next year!


After only three years in 4-H, and with no experience in those three years with large animals other than llamas and alpacas, the Amazing Allara won Grand Champion Showman for the Intermediates!!

Her mom cried, her dad beamed, her younger brother was a great sport, all my llama friends cheered…and Allara had the biggest smile on her face the rest of the day. Well-earned and totally deserved.  CONGRATULATIONS, ALLARA!!!

SO DANG HAPPY!
Allara is, too.




There’s no crying in the Llama Greenway…unless it’s the last day of Fair.
Rob and I were on our evening rounds, wandering around the Fairgrounds, watching the Fair slowly come to a close. The first tear fell around 7:00 this evening.

We walked into the Llama Greenway to find it almost completely dismantled. There were only three penned animals left; everybody else was gone. I stood there looking at the brown emptiness and tried to hear the llama hums and kid laughter and loudspeaker announcements and competition cheering that had filled the area for ten glorious days.

And then I spotted Allara and her mom. They had a garment bag for Allara’s show ring uniform and a tote bag now toting a large Grand Champion Round Robin trophy and a whole bunch of ribbons.

Rob and I congratulated Allara. We told her how impressed we were by all her hard work and long hours. We commended her for all the sacrifices she had made to accomplish her goals. I thanked her for being such a spectacular part of my Fair, for doing things I wish I had thought to do when I was a kid. Through her, I get to experience a little bit of 4-H life. I told her that even though I couldn’t claim her as my kid, I was so extraordinarily proud of her.

And then Allara got to watch two grown women cry with shared pride and gratitude in the Llama Greenway.

I sort of hope she slept with the trophy tonight.
Or at least the ribbon.  It looks less pokey.



Like I needed another reason to be sentimental
With a sudden inspiration (is there any other kind?), I decided I wanted an onion bloom as a snack (see Fair Food Feast Parade). There’s really only one booth to get them so we bellied up to the DeMolay counter for the first time all Fair.

And I was surprised and so very happy to see my friend Rick and his son working the booth.

Apparently, Rick had been working throughout the Fair but we clearly had never seen him. During a lull, he took a break and sat with Rob and me as we munched on the Fair treat Rick likely never needs to see one of again in his life.

We caught up on lives, chatting about work and vacations and what it’s like to work in a food booth at the Fair (long hours, chaotic, exhausting, but also a great way to bond with a young teen son).

After we said good-bye, I realized Rick is my longest friendship. We met as 8-year-olds as third graders in a suburb of San Francisco. We rode bikes together, played in the street together, learned how to play card games together. We went to high school together but had different circles of friends. Nevertheless, we signed each other’s Senior Year yearbooks.

We reconnected later as adults, me struggling not to call him Ricky anymore. He and his wife moved to my county several years ago in search of a new career and a new environment in which to raise their son.

Tonight, it was such a gift of life and intersecting circumstances to sit in the Food Court of my beloved Fair and catch up with a friend of over 40 years.

I really need to remember to pack along Kleenexes on Day 10.

Despite the heat and exhaustion, I suspect working
the DeMolay booth together at the Fair will be a favorite
memory for both of them in the years to come.



DAILY STATS:

Number of miles walked: 4.1 miles, which included walking around Walmart on our way home to pick up provisions…like bananas and naproxen, both of which will be eagerly consumed tomorrow.

Re-entry hand stamp: The adorable dancing pig again, just like on Day 1. But this time, unlike the Giraffe Horse, the repeat is absolutely perfect.

Earrings: Green breath mints! After nine days of eating my way through the Fair, these seemed the obvious choice.



Random freebie: Four packets of yeast! Rob scored these in the Canning Department while I was over in the Photography Department retrieving my award-winning photo (hey, last place is still an award, right?). I’m assuming I’m supposed to make bread or something with them. I’m hoping for homemade beer instead.



Number of friends we said hi to: A 2018 Fair high of a whopping 35! I am surrounded by people in my life who also find joy in Fairing. So grateful. And so sappy!

Time crawled into bed: 3:41am.  The latest bed time of the Fair. Sometimes it's hard to write through tears.


FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:

The Final Parade of 2018. Traditionally, my stomach and appetite seem to know the party is ending and start checking out on the Fair Food thing on the last day. Not this year! For whatever reason, my stomach was all in all day to the very end. YAY!

Finishing up my Tangerine La Croix in the Fairgrounds
parking pasture.

Corn dog from Hog Daddy's.  That batter
sure is good.

My final Smasher.  This was the Strawberry Peach Pear
blend.  A great way to say Fairwell to Stan.  And thanks for
all the refills, Eric and Dakota!

Finally got yesterday's mac n cheese with bacon
from Big E's BBQ.  It was exactly what I wanted.
Mmmmm.

Yesterday I said I would be sharing my caramel corn with
friends.  Here I am, sharing it with Holly.

Rojo wanted to get in on the caramel corn action, too.
He sincerely liked the stuff more than I did so I left
the bag for him to share with his buddies. Or devour
all on his own, either way.

Chocolate vanilla swirl soft serve ice cream from the
Dairy Women's Barn.  In real life, I never have that
much ice cream as a serving.

Rob and I shared this onion bloom from the DeMolay booth.
It's a Walla Walla onion that is sliced into little pieces and
then fried with tempura batter.  It was very good and we
managed to finish the whole thing.

But about 15 minutes later, I needed some
fresh air and two Tums.  And the look on
my face is more exhaustion than nausea,
which fortunately passed.  The nausea I mean.
The exhaustion, well... I'm pretty much
a pygmy goat at the moment.

Final Fair Food Feast Parade Treat of 2018
Rob and I shared a bag of a dozen donuts from the
new donut truck.  They were one of my favorite finds
of the year, best enjoyed at night when the air cools down.
I happily came home tonight sprinkled in powdered sugar.
I LOVE THE FAIR!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

2018 FAIR – Day 9

Super fun Fair Day! And wow, was it crowded! There were more people at the Fair today than we have seen any of the past nine days. We parked waaay out in the pasture, and I actually started making feasting selections based on line lengths. I rarely pass up a Fair Food Treat because the lines are too long.

Although all the extra people made it more challenging to get around the Fairgrounds and see and do everything we wanted, it warmed my heart to see so many people enjoying our Fair.   Funny how the forecast of rain in August makes Washingtonians flock outside to gratefully rehydrate.


Somebody else had to get 11th place this year
Today has traditionally been Llama Day for me at the Fair.  In many of the prior years, I…and sometimes Rob…have participated in Open Class llama (and alpaca) competitions. I’ve lead camelids around obstacle courses, I’ve tried to be something of a Showman, and I’ve learned that a halter is not just a groovy triangular blouse from the ‘70s. I’ve won a variety of ribbons, a few even in single-digit places.

This year, though, Rob and I decided it was wisest to just be spectators. He and I are both trying to heal achy body parts (“Pruner’s Elbow” for Rob – or “Tennis Elbow” for those without blackberry bushes trying to conquer their backyard; and a pulled quad muscle for me as I learn why so few people 50 and older sit on the floor cross-legged). There’s quite a bit of pulling and tugging and bending and squatting in Open Class Llama Obstacles; for the humans, too.


                                        Bending                      Pulling                     Squatting


So we spent a fair amount of time today sitting in the bleachers in the shade, sipping beverages, and listening to two dear friends try really hard to be supportive and not cheer (too loudly) when things went a bit awry for their competition in the Show Ring. Truth be told, it was a bit of a relief today not having to deal with nerves and jitters of trying to figure out how close to last place I would likely land.

I'm sure there was absolutely nothing happening in the
Show Ring with a competitor when I snapped this photo.
They're just having a super fabulous time in the Llama Greenway.
I'm sure of it. 



Speaking of last place
In addition to two canned jars of garden goodies, I also entered one photo in the Fair this year. As I rack up last (third) place ribbons year after year, I repeatedly threaten to never enter a photo in the Fair again. And almost every year I cave at the last minute and join the fray, thinking maybe somehow I will break the code of what the heck the Photography Judges use as judging criteria.

This year, wanting to at least share a cool pic with the Fairing population, I entered a photo from our May trip to see the volcanic eruption in Hawaii (see May 22 blog). I used the ledge of a restaurant’s porch as a tripod while we had dinner in the town of Pahoa by the eerie glow of the lava nearby.

As you will see, once again, my photo was awarded the lowly white ribbon (all photos get a ribbon – a blue (“YAY!”), red (“I’ll try harder!”), or white (sigh).

Those white splotches are not UFOs or Vog Blobs.
They are reflections of lights in the Big Air
Conditioned Building.  Hmmm....maybe that's why
my photo got such low scores?

I really thought I had a chance this year of at least getting a red. And the more I perused the rest of the entries and their associated ribbons, the more mystified I got as to why mine received such low marks.

Thinking like a red ribbon winner, I approached a guy behind a counter in the Photography Department and asked if he could explain to me how photos are judged so I can do better next time.

Although he wasn’t a judge or the recommended Photography Superintendent, the Nice Photo Guy explained the importance of not cropping off people’s heads and not having a border around your photo and making sure the photo is in focus.

Apparently I looked confused, as I thought my entry did not violate any of these mind-blowing rules. So the Nice Photo Guy offered to take a look at my entry to see if he could give me some tips.

It honestly made me feel a little better that he didn’t immediately understand my ribbon placement. Finally, he decided the issue was that the gas station on the right side of the photo was not in focus and I should have used a tripod.

Okey dokey then.

Altogether now:  "I am never entering a photo in the Fair again."



Cheryl and Susan are devastated they missed it
Because we are more rednecky than many people realize, Rob and I excitedly returned to the Grandstands this evening to watch the fourth and final Tuff Trucks show. Yes, the event is so dang popular amongst the locals, the Fair expanded it to two nights a few years ago. Gives all them eager country boys in these parts lots of chances to bust up their rigs.

Much to our delight, the dirt track had been changed a bit from yesterday. The dirt mounds were higher to make things a lot more bouncy. The table top had been modified to encourage more air. And some mounds were placed further apart to allow for more rollovers and headstands. In other words, the track was a ton more fun for both the drivers and the audience.

Despite arriving 40 minutes early, we ended up having to sit at the very top of the Grandstands in order to have seats with back rests. It’s been years since we’ve had to sit up there. I tell you, our county LUVS them some Tuff Trucks!

It was a great show; much better than the one yesterday. It still lasted about 90 minutes but it was full of much faster runs and a lot more action. Lots of trucks caught air, a couple flipped, a number popped tires along the way, one lost a camper shell, and one guy busted his transmission such that he could only go backwards. So, naturally, he donutted around, revved up, and did the final jump going backwards. He then exited the arena and drove to his spot in the parking lot all in reverse. It was one of the more impressive maneuvers I’ve seen in Tuff Trucks. Ah, to be a 17-year-old redneck…

Classic Tuff Truck moment.  Which we saw
absolutely zero of yesterday.  Note to self:
skip the first day of Tuff Trucks and grab
our seats an hour early for the final show.



He finished his spin and then backed out of the 
arena to the right.




DAILY STATS:

Number of miles walked: 3.5 miles again!  I thought it might be a bit more since we parked so far away, but then again, we weren't able to walk as much due to the crowds.

Re-entry hand stamp: A stately rooster on the top of the right hand. See, they had other stamps! Still confounded why they repeated Giraffey Horse day.

Earrings: Rojo the Llama’s silhouette in wood! So very Portland. I wore my matching t-shirt, too. I llove Llama Day!



Random freebie: I spun the wheel at the Portland Spirit booth (a local touristy excursion boat that sails up and down the Willamette River) and won the highly practical Small Flag. I’m currently trying to figure out how the Purple Octopus headband might hold it in one of its tentacles.



Number of friends we said hi to: 20, including our neighbors Kyle and Tanya and their daughters Laney and Lindsay….whom I might add I am starting not to recognize cuz they are looking all tall and teenagery. Still beautiful, though; that part hasn’t changed. Kyle and Tanya blew me away when they told me they have been reading my blog every day. Oh my gosh, thank you again, friends!! I have no idea who all is reading my ramblings, but I can’t tell you how encouraging it is at 2:20am to know there are folks out there taking the time to read along on my Great Fair Adventure. Albeit it a much more civilized hour.  THANK YOU!

I recently mentioned in a Small Dreams blog (July 19) that years
ago some young girls made me a cat out of a toilet paper roll,
construction paper, and pipe cleaners when we had to put
our cat down.  These are those girls, not so young anymore.
But I still have that cat sitting in a place of honor on a
shelf in our office.  =^..^=


Time crawled into bed:  2:29am.  So very tired...



FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:

Despite a couple redirects, I had a very good eatin’ day. I also mused for a bit on how in real life I try not to eat after about 8:30pm. However, during Fair, it strikes me as entirely reasonable to have an ear of corn at 9:30pm and chase it with a milkshake at 10:00pm. It’s probably a really good thing there is only one day left of this diet.


Polar Orange Vanilla sparkling water.  Yes, I am stocked
with quite a variety.  This one tastes like an Orange
Creamsicle if you have an imagination.

My Daily Smasher -- Rob's favorite...the Peach Pear.
Yummm!

Lunch!  The Chicago Dog from Dogville.
It was very good and only required a fork
at the end.  One complaint:  the promised
sport peppers were actually chopped
pepperoncinis.  Now, I love me some
pepperoncinis but they are not sport
peppers. A Chicagoan would have rightly
complained to the booth manager.  I'm a
Washingtonian with a blog so I'll complain here instead.

Sneaking some (a third??) of Rob's tasty crispy
fries from the Lion's booth.  I'm going to miss these.

Sliced caramel apple.  Oh my goodness, I wish I had
known about the slice thing years ago.

Quite enjoying some homemade blackberry jelly made by
my friend Terrie.  She made it at the Fair as a demonstration
and texted me when it was ready for sampling.  Have I mentioned
I have the best friends?!?  And yummm on the jelly!  It was
quite nice not to have any seeds in there.  I might have to
learn how to use a food mill.
The owner of the Hawaiian Shave Ice booth
told me this Mexican seasoning he quietly
offers on the counter is really good on the
watermelon shave ice.  The seasoning's
ingredients are chili peppers, lime, salt...
right up my alley.  So of course I tried it.

I LOVED IT!  It was a totally different
experience than just shave ice.  It was
kicky and crunchy and delicious.  It
reminded me of being told years ago
that red pepper flakes are good on fresh
pineapple slices.  In any case, I will have to
ask the owner what other flavors are good
with the seasoning.  The green flavor there
is Green Apple.  It was fine but I was totally
distracted by the idea of putting condiments
on shave ice.  YUM1

Dinner -- the kid's plate from Patrick's
Hawaiian Cafe.  The tender teriyaki chicken
and yummy yakisoba noodles.  Wow, that's a lot
of y's and k's and i's to keep track of at
2:00 in the morning.  In any case, I was
quite pleased with this even though my
original plan was to have some Smoked
Mac n Cheese and Fried Zucchini.  But
Big E's was out of the mac and cheese
and I didn't get the zucchini out of
protest for them not putting a note on their
menu so I could have avoided the line.

I decided to try this Lilikoi Passion Fruit juice
from Patrick's.  It was ok but was honestly really
bland compared to the Smashers.  

Snacking on my favorite Nerd Rope candy from the Candy Hut
(not its real name) near the coffee kiosk.  I only get to eat
Nerd Rope at the Fair.  It was gone before the National
Anthem started.

I decided to try the caramel corn from the booth
that I got the delicious white cheddar popcorn
from.  Verdict: for caramel corn, I suspect it
is very good. However, it turns out I am not a
big fan of caramel corn.  I will be sharing this
with friends tomorrow.

If it's 9:30pm, it must be time for roasted corn.  I was realllly
hoping Big E's had a shaker of parmesan cheese to make this
ear even more Fair worthy.  Instead I just added salt.
I wonder if I could bring my own baggie of cheese tomorrow? 

Capping off the day with a bedtime Marionberry milkshake.
They don't often have the marionberries so this was a huge
treat.  Marionberries are sort of a cross between blackberries
and raspberries -- not as tart as a raspberry and not as sweet
as a blackberry.  They are a Pacific Northwest thing and this
shake made me very happy...despite the current thoughts
of popping a wee hours Tums.